San Francisco: Apple Inc. sold more than four million iPhone 4S devices in the first three days after it was introduced, setting a record as customers lined up at stores from Sydney to San Francisco to be first with the new touch-screen handset.

An advertisment for the Apple Inc. iPhone 4S is displayed at a Sprint Nextel Corp. store in Palo Alto, California, US. Sprint Nextel said sales of Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 and 4S smartphones exceeded expectations and set a company record for daily sales of a device family. Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Demand for the new device extends Apple’s lead as the top maker of smartphones as it fends off rivals including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and HTC Corp. that rely on Google Inc.’s Android software. US wireless partners Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. reported high activation rates for the new iPhone, which has new voice-recognition software, a speedier processor and higher-quality camera.

“Higher-than-expected sales may have been the result of availability at Verizon and Sprint in addition to AT&T, broader international distribution, positive reviews, timing of the iPhone 3GS hardware upgrade availability and possible Steve Jobs tribute-related demand," said Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, in a research note on Monday. He had projected sales of about three million units for the debut weekend.

The iPhone 4S went on sale on 14 October in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK, in Apple’s first hardware release since the death of former chief executive officer Steve Jobs. Apple also has debuted iCloud, for wirelessly synchronizing music, pictures and documents across Apple devices, and iOS 5 mobile software.

Customers lined up outside stores in cities including Frankfurt, Tokyo, San Francisco and New York. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was among the first to get a handset at the store in Los Gatos, California. With a two-year contract, the iPhone 4S costs $199, $299 or $399, depending on amount of memory.

The stock rose less than a percent to $425.32 at 10.44am New York time. Expectations for high sales helped push Apple’s shares up 3.3% to $422 in US trading on Friday. The shares have risen 31% this year before Monday.

Sales from this weekend won’t be included in Apple’s fourth-quarter results, due to be reported on Tuesday. In the period, profit jumped 62% to $6.98 billion on sales of $29.6 billion, according to the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

For the quarter now underway, Apple may sell more than 27 million iPhones, Abramsky estimated. He said sales for fiscal 2012 may reach 110 million and he rates the stock outperform.

Apple said more than 25 million customers are already using iOS 5, in the first five days of its release, according to a statement on Monday. More than 20 million customers have signed up for iCloud.